Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
Discovery Institute, P.A. Rockledge, FL
Serving Brevard County
There is no doubt that in this day and age the majority of people connect with others through the internet. In fact, I am connecting with you through this blog right now. There is nothing wrong with this, we have become accustomed to being able to reach more people immediately and to know what everyone is doing. We believe it saves us time and helps us remain connected to people that we would normally not have the time to connect with. This may be true in some cases, but many times we spend more time “connecting” to others through the internet and social networking and end up losing more time than we save as well as feeling more detached than connected. In recent years, it has been found that there are other negative affects of social networking than just the loss of time. It has been suggested that there is a link between facebook and depression.
The article that I am linking to here, discusses one reason for this possible link, but there are others as well. First, the article reports that the link is due to a phenomenon called social comparison theory. This relates back to the grass is always greener principle, in which we compare ourselves to others and always find ourselves lacking, which leads to a perpetual sense of low self-esteem. Facebook makes it even easier for us to compare ourselves to these “friends” as we share pictures and posts about our jobs, kids, relationships, and social life and also compare who our friends are, how many friends we have, how many comments we get on our pictures, posts, and walls, and what is said in each. Many people base their sense of social worth on these factors, and no matter how loved they feel through facebook, there is always that friend or two that seems to be “loved” more.
Even when we try our best to not compare ourselves to others, it seems that it is inevitable on facebook. In conjunction with the social comparison theory is the fact that facebook allows us to stay in contact with people that we normally would not. We become curious of what others are up to, and in many cases have more facebook “friends” than we have real life acquaintances. If it weren’t for facebook, we may not keep in contact with those toxic individuals in our lives that perpetually make us feel bad about ourselves. For instance, in person you may avoid that “friend” that is always bragging about the latest thing she has bought or experience she has had, but now you are privy to her every thought and action through her posts. Or you would not stay up to date with the friend that always has to one up you and now he has more opportunities to do so.
The other factor that may strengthen a relationship between facebook and depression is the fact that although it is called social networking, it actually causes us to socialize less. Many people use facebook as a crutch, relying on the computer for the social connection that we really need through face to face contact. Instead of calling or visiting a friend, we communicate via the computer and lose the intimacy of the social interaction that actually connects us with other people. As we socialize less and less, we may begin to feel more alone which can lead to feelings of depression.
In addition to socializing less, we may find that we make less time for the things that are really important and bring us joy, such as family and hobbies. Some people keep facebook up all day and are never really present in anything they do. It eats into the quality time they give their children, spouse, friends, and other relationships.
Now, I’m not saying that using facebook is a bad thing, or that you should cancel your account now. There are a lot of positives to facebook, which if you are a user of the social networking site, then you already know. In another blog entry, I will discuss ways to protect yourself from these negative effects.
Please feel free to add any ways in which you believe the use of facebook and depression can be linked as well as ways in which you believe it may protect people from depression. If you are in the Rockledge area and are in need of a therapist or someone to talk to, please give me a call.